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Top 5 Kazan Attractions

An ancient Kremlin, the first city mosque dating back to the 18th century and one of Russia’s oldest drama theatres. The Culture.ru web portal selected top 5 must-see Kazan attractions.

Photo courtesy of Igor Litvyak / Photobank Lori

The Kazan Kremlin

The Kazan Kremlin is one of the oldest Russian kremlins. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its history began in the 10th century, when Bulgarian tribes built fortifications on the banks of the Kazanka River. In the 12th century, they were replaced with a stone kremlin. During the years, it was reinforced, expanded and rebuilt many times. A Khan’s Palace was built on the territory of the fortress as well as several wooden and stone mosques. Those buildings didn’t survive to our days. In the 19th century, the Khan’s Palace was replaced by the Governor’s House. Today, the Palace of the President of Tatarstan is situated there.

Inside the territory of the Kazan Kremlin one can find museums of the Tatar people’s history and culture that contain national clothes and musical instruments, armour and weapons of Tater warriors, ancient coins and jewellery. Other buildings of the Kremlin architectural ensemble include the Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral, the leaning Söyembikä Tower and republic’s main mosque, Qol Sharif.

The Qol Sharif Mosque

The Qol Sharif is the main cathedral mosque of Tatarstan. It was opened in 2005. Its exterior replicates the look of the Khanate of Kazan’s main mosque that was destroyed in 1552 by the Army of Ivan the Terrible. The mosque was named after Qol Sharif — a Tatar poet, warrior and prominent thinker who is considered to be a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad.

The dome of the mosque resembles a Kazan hat that was used to crown Khans and is now stored in the Moscow Kremlin Armoury Chamber. The mosque’s walls are symmetrical, with lancet arches, and are clad with white marble. Tall minarets stand on the corners of the building. Apart from the mosque, the ensemble includes the Museum of Islamic Culture of the Volga and the Museum of Ancient Manuscripts, a library, a publishing centre and Imam’s Administration.

The First Cathedral Mosque, Mardjani, in Kazan

The Mardjani Mosque is the first stone mosque of Kazan built after the conquest of the city by Ivan the Terrible. It was constructed in 1770. The building’s architecture combines provincial baroque style with the traditional shapes of medieval Tatar mosques. The arches and walls of the second floor praying halls are decorated with floral ornaments and plasterwork of blue, green and golden shades.

In the Soviet times, Mardjani was the only working mosque in Kazan. Even during the anti-religious policy, it was regularly renovated and refurbished. Thanks to that, the building has been well-preserved to these days. Inside the mosque, there’s a tombstone of Muhammad-gali bek of the Khanate of Kazan era.

The Kazan Academic Russian Bolshoi Drama Theatre of V.I. Kachalov

The Kazan Drama Theatre of Vasily Kachalov is one of Russia’s biggest theatres. It was founded in 1793. Initially, the theatre was renting its premises. Later, in 1802, it got a building of its own, that was made of wood. The theatre’s modern building was made of stone in 1852.

Now, Kazan Drama Theatre stages plays for children, shows based on the writings on modern authors, as well as classical plays: The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin, The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, Dom Juan by Jean-Baptiste Molière, The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov.

The theatre group tours in Russia and internationally. It gives performances in France, Czech Republic, Turkey, Bulgaria and other countries.

The State Museum of Fine Arts

The State Museum of Fine Arts was founded in Kazan in 1895 when Admiral Ivan Likhachev donated to the city a collection of paintings, engravings and drawings that used to belong to his brother, scientist Andrey Likhachev. After the Revolution, the museum collection was enriched with art pieces, brought from the nationalised manor houses and mansions, churches and monasteries, as well as from private collections and other museums.

The State Museum of Fine Arts is situated in an early 20th century mansion that prior to the Revolution was a residence to the Commander-in-chief of the Kazan Military District. Its exhibition contains works of Alexandre Benois, Boris Kustodiev, Ivan Shishkin and Ivan Bilibin among many other famous artists. Ancient engravings are exhibited in a separate room. Apart from that, the museum’s exhibition contains works of modern artists: paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs.

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